“Water Scarcity, Security and Democracy: A Mediterranean Mosaic”

A new and much awaited book by the Cornell University, the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future and the Global Water Partnership-Mediterranean was published in September 2014. As its title indicates, the book is a mosaic on its own - of stories, insights, questions and answers about water in the Mediterranean.

By travelling around the region and exploring interrelated themes, its chapters make deep-dive stops, connecting the Mediterranean’s shores, people and natural resources. The book aspires to provide a source of reference and inspiration towards better understanding water-related socio-political balances in the region.

A number of experts from a variety of academic institutions, international organizations and research centers[1] share with the readers their expertise and perceptions: from the cultural and practical significance of water in our everyday life - including intellectual, aesthetic and moral aspects, to the shaping role water has on the region’s societies and their level of development; from the creative imagination Mediterranean peoples have invested throughout history to transform the growing water challenge into a driver for innovation and social organization, to the important role education plays in creating a new, responsible and wise water culture, as well as in enabling sustainable solutions; from conflict over shared water resources, to cooperation towards sharing benefits for improved livelihoods; and so much more…

The book features case studies from across the region: from the Greek island of Crete that has to balance water demand for tourism and agriculture, to Palestine with its critical water needs and rapidly deteriorating water quality; from the potential for improved water utilization in Lebanon to the allure of the southern shores of the European Union, to which millions of tourists, but also thousands of migrants are drawn every year; from Algeria’s effort to preserve its foggaras, a traditional technique of groundwater exploitation, to the controversial large-scale agricultural development projects in Syria that dislocated rural communities and  spurred uncontrolled urbanization; from the elaborative effort towards sustainable management of the transboundary Drin River Basin, to water challenges in Spanish agriculture.

All these water challenges are addressed, on the one hand, in the framework of the “fine mosaic of solid pieces of immense durability” that the Mediterranean region represents, a mosaic of peoples, historical backgrounds and memories, civilizations, religions, ideologies and philosophies; and on the other hand, within a range of pressures: biodiversity losses, increasing pollution, fast-growing population and unsustainable consumption, fast-developing urbanization, climate variability and change ante portas with increasing desertification, droughts and flood phenomena. Together with and partly because of the above, the region faces a deep socio-political and economic crisis, including armed conflict and resulting migration. In this context, the importance of today’s water security challenge should not be underestimated or ignored.

The book presents the huge multidimensional challenges facing the region and proposes a path towards ensuring sustained economic growth, human security and political stability in the region: the path of integrated water resources management and its nexus approach with energy and food. Given the importance of the coastal area for developmental activities in the region, an integrated approach to coastal and river basin management is also highlighted. These need to be prioritized by governments, local authorities, civil society, businesses, academics and other stakeholders involved. The book advocates that solutions are within reach: good governance; participatory policy making, implementation and monitoring; accessible information; enforced capacities; affordable technologies and innovation; socially sensitive investments; tailor-made, pro-poor fiscal instruments; coordinated efforts and initiatives, are just some of the tools needed to turn policy into action and shape a better future for the whole region.

The book was edited by Professors Gail (Electra) Holst-Warhaft and Tammo Steenhuis of Cornell University and Dr. Francesca de Châtel. GWP-Med Chairman, Prof. Michael Scoullos, addresses readers in the book’s foreword. Furthermore, GWP-Med, in collaboration with UNECE, contributed the case study on the dynamically evolving Drin River Basin collaboration.

The book is available for download here.

[1] International Center Civiltà dell’Acqua (Italy), Hérault Departmental Archives (France), University of North Texas (USA), University of Zaragoza (Spain), Center for Transboundary Water Management, Arava Institute for Environmental Studies (Israel), UNESCO Chair on Management and Education for Sustainable Development in the Mediterranean, University of Athens (Greece), Global Water Partnership – Mediterranean, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, Cornell University (Ithaca, U.S.A.), Biopolitics International Organisation (Greece), National Agency of Hydraulic Resources (Algeria), International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (Jordan), Department of Landscape Design and Ecosystem Management, American University of Beirut (Lebanon), Ministry of Agriculture (Lebanon), Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit - GIZ (Germany), Water Observatory, Botin Foundation (Spain), School of Civil and Water Resources Engineering, Bahir Dar University (Ethiopia), Lasithi Region, Crete (Greece)